Viral Load »

Your viral load is a measure of the amount of hiv present in your blood. The more HIV in your blood, the higher the viral load and the faster your CD4 cells are likely to disappear; and the greater the risk of disease progression.

Think of HIV as a car speeding towards an accident, which is the point at which you become ill. The viral load tells you how fast the car is speeding and the cd4 count …

Combination Therapy »

… decision to start treatment is based on a number of factors including your CD4 count, your HIV Viral load and whether or not you have had any health problems so far that can be attributed to HIV infection.

Your HIV specialist will take all of the above into account, as well as how fast your CD4 count is falling, when recommending whether or not HIV therapy is appropriate.   Your own views on whether or not you feel ready to start HIV treatment are obviously also very important and …

Starting Therapy »

… that someone is taking. If viral replication is shown to be consistently present by detectable viral load measurements and if other options are available which could further suppress viral replication or eliminate severe side effects, therapy should be changed.

Consequently viral load tests and clinic visits will need to be made more frequently when changes in treatment are being considered. There are a number of reasons why a particular combination of anti-HIV drugs fails. These …

Choosing a Combination »

… are outlined on the next few pages.

Choose a combination that will best reduce your viral load

The combination of drugs you choose should be strong enough to bring your viral load down to undetectable levels and maintain it at that level. A low viral load reduces your risk of developing HIV-related illnesses and makes it more difficult for drug resistant HIV to develop.

Choose drugs you have not used before

If you have already taken anti-HIV drugs, when choosing your …

When to Change »

… by suppressing viral replication to below detectable levels as measured on an ultrasensitive viral load assay, and keeping it there.

However, this is not always achievable with a given combination and it sometimes needs to be changed.

There are a number of reasons why a particular combination of anti- HIV drugs fails. These include poor adherence to the drugs and sub-optimal blood levels of anti-HIV drugs.  In the latter case, drug levels may be low in some patients because …

Stopping Therapy »

Combination therapy reduces viral load levels in your body, giving your immune system some protection from HIV and an opportunity to recover from the damage caused by HIV.

When people have stopped taking combination therapy, most have found that their viral load increases, eventually returning to the level it was before they started.  More worryingly, the immune system starts to deteriorate as well!

If you decide …

Pregnancy and HIV »

… include the mother taking HIV medicines (some but not all are safe in pregnancy ) to reduce her viral load, avoidance of prolonged labour (caesarean section often recommended), no breastfeeding, HIV medication for the baby for 4 – 6 weeks after the birth.

This is quite a complicated area so you should speak to your HIV doctor or nurse if you are considering pregnancy. 

All pregnant woman in Scotland are now offered an HIV test routinely to reduce mother to baby transmission of …